We Just Bought A Cheap 20-Year-Old Mercedes-Benz ML 320 And Drove It 1,400 Miles

The results were about what you expected

If you’re looking to avoid the heart attack-inducing sticker shock that comes with buying a new car these days, you can definitely find some great buys on the used market. Even if you’re just looking for a project car, like we were with this 1999 Mercedes-Benz ML 320, you can’t go wrong by finding an inexpensive deal…right? Well, that’s what we’re aiming to find out in this new project series — whether we can turn this 20-year-old Mercedes into a fearsome overlanding rig.

As for the base vehicle, Roman and Tommy flew out to Atlanta, Georgia to buy this clean-looking Mercedes. The M-Class originally launched in 1997 with this “320” model. That number denotes a 3.2-liter V-6 engine with 215 horsepower and 229 lb-ft of torque. That engine comes mated to a five-speed automatic transmission, though some European models also had a five-speed manual transmission fitted to a 2.3-liter inline-four engine. The M-Class was also the first model built in the U.S. in Vance, Alabama, where the brand’s GLE-Class SUVs are still manufactured.

We Just Bought A Cheap 20-Year-Old Mercedes-Benz ML 320 And Drove It 1,400 Miles
The first-generation Mercedes-Benz M-Class debuted in 1997. [Photo: Mercedes-Benz]

We almost made it home

On top of paying $4,000 for the car, we paid $150 in gas on the road trip home. “Not too shabby,” you might think. Most of the trip went without incident, until Roman and Tommy made it about 100 miles from our home base in Boulder, Colorado. There, in the middle of the night, the alternator decided to give out, and the car ended up stranded overnight in a truck stop parking lot.

The next day, Tommy managed to find a $325 (ouch!) alternator replacement to rescue the Mercedes. Check out the video above to see if we were able to successfully revive the SUV (or if we had to tow it), and for the full walkaround of our latest long-term arrival.

Stay tuned for more coming up on TFLclassics, including cars you should get before they’re too expensive: